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Listeria blamed for US smoked salmon recalls

By Rod Addy , 08-Jan-2013

Listeria monocytogenes contamination continues to drive a wave of US smoked salmon recalls.

The latest incident concerned Chilean supplier Procesadora de Productos Marinos Delifish. On December 31, the company voluntarily recalled cold smoked salmon products marketed in the US, produced from lots 249 to 291 and manufactured between September 5 and October 17 2012.

Fortunately, no complaints or illnesses were reported.

However, this is merely the last in a long line of recalls, all linked to Listeria. On December 23, Multiexport Foods recalled smoked salmon sold in Wal-Mart retail subsidiary Sam’s Club’s stores in 42 US states and Puerto Rico.

Ocean Beauty Seafoods

Just nine days before this, Ocean Beauty Seafoods recalled 371 cases of ready-to-eat cold smoked salmon after internal samples tested positive for Listeria contamination. The product, which was imported from Chile, was sold in 12 US states.

One month before that, Michael Gourmet Delicacies recalled its Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon sold in Florida Whole Foods stores after the Florida Department of Agriculture identified Listeria in one sample.

And on November 9, 2012, Spence & Co, based in Brockton Massachusetts, recalled 1,563 packs of New York style Nova Lox after Listeria was discovered during routine product testing.

Two people sick

Two people were taken sick as a result, it is believed, of the contamination.

Roy Betts, head of microbiology at UK food research and development firm Campden BRI, said the US zero tolerance policy to Listeria in food would have an affect on the frequency of recalls. By contrast, the EU allows tolerable safe levels of Listeria in product.

Listeria bacteria can generally be killed by thorough cooking and proper food preparation, but smoked salmon is often eaten raw, creating greater risk of transmitting Listeria to consumers.

Heat treatment

Betts added: “Smoked salmon is treated with different types of heat process, which would have an effect on killing microorganisms.”

Survey results issued in September by Hutchison Scientific, the School of Natural and Computer Sciences, University of Aberdeen and Chilled Food Associates pinpointed areas vulnerable to Listeria contamination in smoked fish factories.

Drains, skinning machines, brine injection units and fish slicers were all listed as particularly susceptible. Plant workers could also spread the germ from area to area via their hands or equipment, the study found.

It analysed irradiation, high pressure processing and pulsed light technology as ways to remove L. monocytogenes contamination.

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